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What does "Archival" mean?

Discussion in 'Photography Issues' started by Daniel Smith, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler


    A very interesting article that discusses the archival standard in photography.

    So many terms misused so often that we can have a nice conversation about this stuff and both go away not knowing anything at all.

    Am familiar with Conservation Framing and know some in the photo community(and possibly others) call it 'Archival Framing". Any real definitions and standards that one can apply and rely on?

    As it is now the neighbor kid who prints on cheap inks with his $30 dollar printer that claims the prints will last 30 days can call them "Archival" because they last the time the maker claims they will.

    Maybe Chris Paashe(sp?) and others more solidly grounded in the science can chime in here. Would like to be able to talk about this with actual knowledge rather than repeating BS with no real foundation.
  2. Dave

    Dave SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I don't believe archival should be used in the framing industry other than to possibly describe the nature of materials being used. There is no such thing as archival framing because by it's very nature framing an item is contrary to the definition of archival. Archival is derived from "archive" which is defined as a place or collection containing records, documents, or other materials of historical interest. This can further be refined to say that items are being archived to preserve and protect them for as long as possible. When we frame something it is for display and not to be archived. Display requires light which is not protecting the item for it's longest life.

    Preservation definitely has a role in framing. Preservation framing utilizes the best (archival) materials and methods to be able to preserve an item while displaying it.

    Conservation I understand to be a restorative process as related to art and antiquities.
    CandyB likes this.
  3. JFeig

    JFeig SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    "Archival" is an art supply marketing word that has no standards to support any claims that may be made. It is just like the term "Natural" in the food industry.
    CandyB and Dave like this.
  4. Dirk

    Dirk CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    Curmudgeons, like the guy in the picture at left, bellied up to eighty-eight keys, rue the day when silver halide was replaced by ones and zeroes.
    skye and Grey Owl like this.
  5. prospero

    prospero SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    According to the doco series "Life After People", the only truly archival thing is a Fruit Cake. :rolleyes:
    CandyB, FramerKat and Dave like this.
  6. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    Thank you for the link, Daniel; it's an interesting article. I'll echo the choir that, in the framing industry, archival is a less useful term than it's semantic kin. I think we all get the main point of your question, though, which is, partly, how to tell which materials will last, how they work in combination with one another, and by extension, how to find a reasonable balance between 'never' and 'forever' when creating and selling photos. Having just returned from a couple of Chris Paschke classes at Vegas, I told my helper, 'No matter how long one is in the framing business, there's always something more to learn!', and this area of new developments in media is a wild frontier right now. For example, one thing I hadn't known is that the white areas of Yupo paper, which came from the sign industry and is now a darling of artists, can yellow. Big no-no in the art world, and with the current ubiquity of it's use, there's bound to be unexpected fallout when art purchases unexpectedly change.

    People with far more knowledge than I can answer your specific questions, but one thing I do have to offer is the encouragement to learn all you can from those who have already tested the materials and to experiment on your own, also. I was really encouraged by Chris' willingness to explore the boundaries of performance with products, delving into whatever didn't work with the patience of a forensics expert and coming up with observations that many might miss. It's given me the courage to practice doing the same a lot more, and to create samples of the results to show customers (rather than just telling them). Hopefully, this thread will continue, as it's a subject vital to the entire 'image' industry.
  7. JFeig

    JFeig SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

  8. Sonny

    Sonny CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    The Fine Art Trade Guild in London has asked framers to remove the word archival from their vocabulary. Their feeling is that it is a meaningless term when referring to framing not unlike Dave's explanation above. I suggest that everyone should take the time to read the recent PPFA Matboard Standards. The people who put it together really did their homework and in my opinion you can't get any better explanations or terminology for the framing industry.
    shayla likes this.
  9. Justan2

    Justan2 Guest

    “Archival” means whatever the manufacturer states it means.
  10. Steve Collins

    Steve Collins SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    "Archival" is the way Bostonians say "Arch rival"
    shayla and cjmst3k like this.
  11. 1banjo

    1banjo Grumbler

    Archival should be the only thing that any of us do!?
    But so minty times our standards are higher then the standards of what we are framing!!
    so that kind of makes archival an oxymoron statement
  12. dpframing

    dpframing CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    Archival framing= rag- (cotton- no lignin) touching the art
    mount- wheat paste + Japanese hinging
    glazing - 99% UV blocking
  13. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler

    The scientific resource for photographic and digital paper and ink is:

    The problem with Henry Wilhelm is testing many papers and inks paid for by the companies that make and market them.


    I put more stock into checking both the above in trying to make decisions.
    That said, I go for conservation framing using what are supposed to be the best materials available. That changes as we move forward and I'll change with it.

    Most of my framing is photography. I am a photographer and am more comfortable with it. Alternative processes from wet plate to Pt/Pd to Carbon and others are a challenge at times and keeping up to date on 'old' processes is interesting.
  14. Dirk

    Dirk CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    Perhaps, "archival" could become the latest euphemism for senior citizen?

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